Norfolk’s church community speak out about problems with metal thefts

Members of Norfolk's church community have spoken out about the problems of metal thefts from the county's religious buildings as 2011 is named the worst year on record for crimes of this kind nationwide.

More than 2,500 theft of metal claims were made to Ecclesiastical, the main Church of England insurer, across the country last year, surpassing the previous highest figure of more than 2,400 in 2008.

In Norfolk, as previously reported, police have vowed to get tougher on metal thieves after figures revealed there had been more than 2,200 metal thefts from churches and other buildings in the past three-and-a-half-years.

Malcolm Fisher, secretary of Norfolk Churches Trust, said the government needed to act quickly to change the law so that cash transactions were no longer allowed when dealing with scrap metal. This would help to curb the trade of stolen metal because cheque and bank card transactions would be able to be traced.

He said: 'They have got to do something about it pretty quick because, otherwise, 2012 will be an even worse year. Metal theft levels are an absolute disgrace and not enough has been done about it.

'It is scandalous that people in this day and age can go into a scrap metal merchant and come out with cash.

'It is archaic and it is obviously abused.'

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The Rev Di Lammas, rector of the parish churches in Hethersett, Great and Little Melton, has also previously spoken out, urging people to sign a national petition calling for new regulations on the sale of scrap metal following a series of devastating lead thefts from churches including St Remigius Church, in Hethersett, and All Saints Church at Little Melton.

The Rev Simon Ward, chaplain to the Bishop of Norwich, said: 'Lead has always had a price on it, but with the way prices have gone in recent years it has become more of a problem. We really feel for the church communities who do a huge amount of work to look after these beautiful, historic buildings, and are then affected by lead thefts. These buildings are sacred and special. They are places of worship and we would all like to think they are places which are treated with respect. It is a real shame and it is quite painful when that gets violated.'

He said the diocese would support anything to deter lead thieves, and that the diocese followed closely any advice issued by Ecclesiastical. Ecclesiastical promotes the use of the forensic liquid SmartWater on church roofs and will soon be launching a new anti metal-theft campaign which promotes a wider use of roof alarms on churches.

• People can sign an e-petition calling for the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 to be amended. Visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/406

• emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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